- May 13, 1956
- Not Active
Kenneth Eriksson is a former Swedish rally driver who recorded 138 starts in the World Rally Championship between 1980 and 2002, as a privateer and driving for six different factory teams (Volkswagen, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Hyundai and Škoda). Eriksson scored six WRC wins and 21 podiums.
His greatest individual success was a title of the Group A world champion in 1986. In 1996 and 1997, he was a part of the championship-winning Subaru World Rally Team. Eriksson was also the Asia-Pacific rally champion three times in a row, from 1995 to 1997.
WRC debut with Saab at 1980 Swedish Rally
Kenneth Eriksson was born on May 13, 1956, in Äppelbo in central Sweden. He started an international rally career in 1980, participating at the Swedish Rally in a Saab 96 V4 and finishing in the 51st place. He returned to the same event two more times driving Saab, finishing in the 15th place in 1982.
Three seasons with Opel
In 1983, Kenneth switched to Opel, driving cars of German manufacturer in the following three season. At the 1983 Swedish Rally, he was 16th with Opel Ascona. Next year, he was driving Opel Kadett GT/E for Opel Team Sweden, capturing first WRC points with a 7th-place finish at 1984 Swedish Rally. In November 1984, he participated for the first time in the WRC event outside Sweden, at Lombard RAC Rally, retiring with a broken gearbox at his Opel Kadett GSi.
Group A world rally champion in 1986
At the 1985 Swedish Rally, driving Opel Kadett GSi, Eriksson finished 10th overall and the first among A7 class drivers. It was a good announcement for the next season, in which he was driving A7 class Volkswagen Golf II GTI 16V.
It was the last season of the monstrous Group B rally cars, so Eriksson had no chance for some good overall result but he clinched five wins in the Group A, taking the championship title for drivers of Group A cars. His navigator was German Peter Diekmann.
Maiden WRC victory at Rallye Cote d'Ivoire
In 1987, Eriksson remained with Volkswagen Motorsport, continuing to drive Volkswagen Golf II GTI 16V. Due to an elimination of Group B cars, the Group A became a top class in the World Rally Championship, so Eriksson was in contention for podium spots. He grabbed his first WRC podium at Rallye de Portugal in March, finishing third behind Lancia's Markku Alen and Renault's Jean Ragnotti.
The next podium followed at Rally New Zealand in July, where Eriksson was second, behind Lancia's Franz Wittmann. And then, at Rallye Cote d' Ivoire in September, Eriksson finally won WRC event. In the final championship standings, he finished in fourth place, being beaten only by Lancia factory drivers Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion and Markku Alen.
Two seasons with Toyota Team Europe
For the 1988 WRC season, Eriksson joined Ove Andersson's Toyota Team Europe. He debuted with the team driving Toyota Supra Turbo at Safari Rally, finishing in the fourth place. After that, Toyota finally introduced 4WD car, the Celica GT-Four ST165. Without podiums, Eriksson finished in the 12th place at the end of 1987.
Next year, Eriksson scored two podiums driving Toyota Celica GT-4 along his new co-driver Staffan Parmander. They were third at Swedish Rally and second in Rally Australia. At the end of the season, Eriksson was sixth in the points.
Six WRC seasons with Mitsubishi
In 1990, Eriksson joined another Japanese manufacturer, being hired by Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe to drive Galant VR-4 together with Ari Vatanen. Eriksson was driving for Mitsubishi until the end of 1995, gaining some of his greatest successes with the team, such were third place overall in the WRC and Asia-Pacific rally title, both in 1995.
Three WRC wins with Mitsubishi
In the first season with Mitsubishi, Eriksson managed to finish only two rallies (Finland and UK), both on a podium, finishing 8th in the points. The first WRC victory with Mitsubishi followed at 1991 Swedish Rally. He added two more podiums, finishing 5th in the points. In the next three seasons, Eriksson scored no wins, reaching only one podium in 1993, at RAC Rally.
And then, in 1995, he won two WRC events, the Swedish Rally and Rally Australia. In the championship, he finished in the third place, behind Subaru's Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, as Toyota's team was excluded from the championship.
Maiden Asia-Pacific rally title in 1995
While competing in the WRC, Mitsubishi recruited Eriksson to represent a brand in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. In 1994, he participated in six APRC events, winning two times (Indonesia and Thailand) to finish second in the points, behind Possum Bourne.
In 1995, Eriksson improved his APRC performances, winning three times (Malaysia, Australia and Beijing) and taking his first Asia-Pacific rally championship title.
Two championship-winning seasons with Subaru
In 1996, Eriksson added the third Japanese manufacturer to his CV, joining the 555 Subaru World Rally Team. His teammate was defending world champion, Colin McRae. They won Manufacturers' championship with Subaru Impreza 555. McRae was second in drivers' standings and Eriksson was fourth. Kenneth defended his APRC title, with one victory (Malaysia) and three podiums.
In 1997, McRae continued to lead Subaru team driving brand new Subaru Impreza S3 WRC, with Eriksson and Piero Liatti sharing the second car. Subaru took one more Manufacturers' championship title, McRae was second again, Eriksson finished in the fifth place. He won two times, at Swedish Rally and Rally New Zealand. In the APRC competition, Eriksson was a champion for the third year in a row.
Four seasons with Hyundai Motorsport
In 1998, Eriksson started a season with Subaru at Swedish Rally, trying to score his fourth win at his home event. He didn't succeed, finishing in the fourth place. For the rest of the season, he joined Hyundai Motorsport to drive Hyundai Coupe Kit Car. He spent one more season with upgraded Hyundai Coupe Kit Car before Korean manufacturer introduced Accent WRC for the 2000 season.
Eriksson was a leading driver of the Hyundai World Rally Team, reaching points in two events and finishing 11th in the final standings. His best results were 4th place at Rally Australia and 5th place at Rally New Zealand. In 2001, Eriksson scored one single point in the last event of the season, the Rally GB.
Last WRC season with Škoda Motorsport
In 2002, Eriksson joined Škoda Motorsport to drive the #14 Škoda Octavia WRC Evo2, with Toni Gardemeister as a teammate in the #15 car. Eriksson's new navigator was Christina Thörner. At Rally Argentina in May, Eriksson finished in the sixth place to score his last WRC point in a career, as it was his last season.
Unlike most of other retired rally drivers of his time, Eriksson completely closes his rallying career after leaving WRC at the end of 2002. He didn't compete either in some national or historic events.
Three-time runner-up in the Race to the Sky
After a retirement, Eriksson's only racing commitment was the participation at the Race to the Sky hillclimb in Cardrona Valley, New Zealand. He went there for the first time in 2005, finishing in the second place, behind Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima. Eriksson was a runner-up in two more attempts, in 2006 and 2007, both times behind Tajima.